Teachers’ perspectives of their pupils’ parents are a critical element of the relationship between schools, families, and communities. However, in various rural African communities, teachers’ views of parents’ perspectives and practices around schooling are primarily ones of deficit rather than strength. This paper deepens this literature by offering insight into teachers’ perspectives in two rural communities in Nigeria. Using an ethnographic approach and applying concepts from the capability approach, this paper explores teachers’ perceptions of parents’ values in relation to their children’s schooling (parental functionings) and their views of the extent to which parents are able to pursue these functionings. The findings resonate with the existing deficit perspectives in the literature. In addition, the findings expand the literature by revealing an empathetic dimension to these deficit perspectives, suggesting that current evidence around teachers’ uniformly deficit perspectives of parents offers only a partial view. Illuminating the empathy that underpins teachers’ perspectives offers the possibility of finding common ground between schools and families which may widen opportunities for forging or deepening positive parent-teacher relationships which support children’s social, emotional, and academic development.
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